DENVER – Brent Burns and Logan Couture scored and the Sharks needed a shootout to defeat Colorado on Tuesday at Pepsi Center, 3-2.
Colorado took its first lead, 2-1, at 3:04 of the third period, despite getting badly outplayed up to that point. Gabriel Landeskog was given room to operate in the offensive zone on a rush, and found Antti Niemi’s five-hole from a sharp angle for his fourth goal of the year.
The Sharks responded to tie it at 2-2. Tommy Wingels charged into the offensive zone, and pushed the puck to Justin Braun for a slap shot. Braun found the far post, but Couture directed in the rebound at 5:03 for his fifth goal.
In the shootout, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski scored while Niemi stopped Alex Tanguay and Matt Duchene to secure the two points.
The Sharks, who improved to 2-1 in shootouts this season, were forced to kill a slashing minor to Marleau with 1:05 left in regulation.
Varlamov finished with 49 saves, and was the only reason the Avalanche weren’t trailing by a wide margin after two periods.
A Vezina finalist last season, the goaltender made numerous remarkable stops. Midway through the first period he spun around to gobble up a Joe Thornton chance, just after Tomas Hertl hit the cross bar on a rebound try.
In the second period, he robbed Pavelski with 7:08 to go at the side of the net on a brilliant setup by Couture. On a late Sharks power play, Couture got open in the slot but fired it into Varlamov, who then quickly shifted to his right to deny Marleau. Wingels was a victim on the same power play, but Varlamov ate up Wingels’ attempt from the slot with 3:15 to go.
San Jose held a 41-17 advantage in shots after 40 minutes, and a 63-29 edge in shot attempts. Colorado played in the Sharks’ zone much more in the third period, outshooting San Jose 12-8.
Burns factored into both goals through two periods.
First, the forward helped San Jose take a 1-0 first period lead. He created a commotion by bull rushing to the net with the puck, which eventually found its way to Mirco Mueller’s stick in the high slot. Mueller’s shot was tipped by Burns past Varlamov at 9:23.
Burns continues to lead all NHL defensemen with 12 points (4g, 8a) and has at least one point in 10 of the Sharks’ 11 games. San Jose has allowed just one first period goal this season, and owns a +12 differential in the opening frame.
Tanguay’s shorthanded goal tied it at 13:24 of the middle frame. Burns was unable to grab an airborne puck at the defensive blue line, and Tanguay swooped in, danced around Couture and winged it home.
San Jose ended a four-game losing streak at Pepsi Center (0-2-2).
The Sharks and Avalanche will meet just once more this season, on April 1 at SAP Center.
The Sharks were 0-for-4 on the power play, while Colorado finished 0-for-3.
Tanguay’s marker was the third shorthanded goal the Sharks have allowed this season.
Although he allowed the goal to Landeskog from a bad angle, Niemi had a number of good saves himself with a quick glove hand. He snatched Duchene’s chance alone in front of the net with 1.5 seconds left in the first period, and in the third period caught Ryan O’Reilly’s buzzer from the slot with 12:08 left and the game tied at 2-2.
Making back-to-back starts for the second time this season, Niemi finished with 31 saves and is 7-0-2 in his career against Colorado.
Varlamov fell to 5-4-2 in his career against San Jose.
For the first time, brothers Tye McGinn and Jamie McGinn played against one another in organized competition. The parents of the two forwards and one set of their grandparents were in attendance.
John Scott served the first of his two-game suspension for legally coming off of the bench to start an altercation with the Ducks’ Tim Jackman on Sunday in Anaheim.
Hertl left the ice for a brief stretch in the second period after blocking a Thornton shot in the offensive zone.
The Sharks conclude a three-game road trip in Minnesota on Thursday. They return for a brief two-game homestand on Nov. 1 against the New York Islanders and Nov. 6 vs. Vancouver.